By Julie Krienke
DELANO, MN Nearly 140 descendants of Johan Joseph Kittok traveled to Central Park in Delano Aug. 7 from 10 states to commemorate a rich family history.
“All of the people came for different reasons,” said Kris Abrahamson, Johan’s great- granddaughter. “I think some people came out of curiosity and some came to get more information.”
Regardless of their initial intentions, there is no doubt that the Kittock/Kittok family reunion was a success.
According to Abrahamson, family members have been discussing having a reunion for nearly six years. Abrahamson’s family has their own reunion each year, and ideas of a larger gathering kept surfacing.
“At our own personal reunion, we kept bringing it up, and in the past few years, the discussion kept getting more serious,” said Joe Kittok, brother of Abrahamson and great- grandson of Johan.
As a result, Abrahamson, her brothers Joe and Dave, and several other family members triggered plans for a large Kittock/Kittok reunion.
“We had some of the addresses, but I decided to start making a database,” Abrahamson said. “There are two different spellings for sure, but we are all related.”
According to Joe, variation in the spelling probably came about when family members got tired of correcting misspellings of their last name. Oftentimes, the letter “c” was added to the name on birth certificates and naturalization records.
Regardless of the different spellings, Abrahamson is confident that all Kittocks and Kittoks are related. After starting her new database, Abrahamson began sending out postcards to the addresses that she had to inform family members of the upcoming reunion.
“I think we just like to do projects,” Abrahamson joked. “Initially, I sent out about 350 letters, and then Dave started a website for our family.”
Coordinators of the reunion knew from previous research who each descendant of Johan married. According to Joe, this assisted them in contacting their family because they knew the last names of all the women who married.
“As it started getting closer, we sent out a reminder postcard,” Abrahamson said. “We then realized that we had missed a lot of people with the cards.”
Because of this, Abrahamson and her brothers decided to include a greater invitation on the postcards. They invited those receiving the invitation to pass the information on to others in the Kittock/Kittok line.
“About a week before the reunion, my daughter said that there is a familyreunion.com site,” Abrahamson said. “So, I went on there, and we had actually done everything it said.”
Coordinators hoped to get the word out about the family reunion to as many descendants of Johan as they possibly could. The long history of the Kittock/Kittok family shows that descendants of Johan spread across the country.
According to Abrahamson, her brother Joe has been documenting the family history for over 10 years by spending countless hours at the Wright County Historical Society.
It has been over 130 years since Johan left Oppeln, Poland, with his family to settle in Delano. The area where Johan originally came from is, today, a part of Germany.
According to Abrahamson, it is because of this that many members of the Kittock/Kittok line believe they came from Germany, when, in fact, they are Polish.
Based on research done by Abrahamson and her brothers, Johan had two wives throughout the course of his lifetime. Before his first wife, Marianna, passed away, she gave Johan five children.
Johan then remarried and was blessed with four more children from his wife Margaretha. From this line, Abrahamson and her brothers traced their heritage.
According to Abrahamson, the first sons of Johan came to Delano in 1874. Most of the early family members were farmers, storeowners, and railroad workers.
“Many worked for the railroad and moved further west than Delano,” Joe said.
Of Johan’s nine children, descendants of six came to the reunion at Central Park. Abrahamson and her brothers have traced a connection with Simon, a son of Johan, as their grandfather.
“We tried to bring the whole side together, which has never been done before,” Abrahamson said. “A family will all stay together.”
Family members came to the reunion in Delano from California, Nevada, Utah, Texas, Florida, Nebraska, Illinois, Wisconsin, Louisiana, and, of course, Minnesota.
When descendants of Johan arrived at the reunion, they were given a nametag in one of nine colors. This showed everyone which one of Johan’s nine children the person descended from.
In addition, Abrahamson and her family set up a 6-foot long map of the United States at the reunion. Those attending were asked to place a colored pin on the place where they were from.
Most of the Kittocks/Kittoks attending the reunion were from Minnesota, according to Abrahamson.
“The farthest away was from California,” Abrahamson said. “He won a map so that he could find his way home and to all of the friends that he made.”
The oldest family member attending the reunion was 91 years old, while the youngest only 2 years old.
The reunion had activities for the young, and old, too. According to Abrahamson, games were provided for the young children all afternoon.
A printer and scanner station was set up at the park for family members who brought old photos and family documents. A map of local cemeteries was also available for those researching dates and where relatives are buried.
The reunion began at noon and continued throughout the afternoon until dusk. A potluck meal took place, and a professional photographer took a large family photo during the afternoon.
Because this one was so successful, Abrahamson and her brothers are looking to have another reunion in 2013. In addition, they are hoping to put together a family history book in the coming years.